I have been asked to share my vast wisdom on the subject of yeast breads (chometz).
I’m not a big fan of lots of different recipes for bread. My philosophy is to find one basic recipe and then do variations on it: experiment with different ratios; stir in a cup of raisins or nuts or grated cheese; make rolls, using cinnamon, sugar and butter, or jelly, or peanut butter and jelly; use milk or evaporated milk or even fruit juice or cream instead of water; and so on.
I’ve forgotten the basic recipe I used before becoming homeless. One could start with this one, and experiment with different ratios until one settles on one one likes.
½ cup butter, melted but not hot
1 cup warm water
¼ cup sugar
1 large egg
1 package commercial yeast
flour: I don’t know how much. Have at least four cups available.
This is destined to produce a small loaf. You can increase amounts later.
Put all the ingredients but flour in a bowl and mix well. Begin stirring in flour, a little at a time, until the dough is firm enough to knead. (Note: There is not, and never will be, an exact amount of flour to use, as the right amount on any given day will depend on the humidity in the room, etc.)
Dust a cutting board or tabletop with flour; turn the dough out onto this, and knead. Sprinkle flour on the wet or sticky spots as needed. Kneading is done when the dough has become springy and elastic.
Put the dough into a greased bowl. Coat the surface with vegetable oil to keep it from drying out. Cover with a cloth, and put in a warm place to rise.
When it has doubled (about two hours), punch it down. At this point, you’ll form it into any special shapes you want, or make the jelly roll, etc. Put it in or on a greased baking pan, cover with cloth, and put up to rise for another two hours.
Bake at 325⁰ for as long as necessary, which will depend on the size and shape of what you’ve made. It’s done when it sounds hollow if you tap on it.
Using store-bought yeast, one can start a batch at noon and take it hot from the oven at supper; in which case the whole will probably be consumed that night.
Clean all surfaces and tools a.s.a.p. after use. Once the traces of dough begin to harden, they’re much harder to clean.
Be forewarned: you WILL “waste” flour; it’s inevitable. You WILL make a mess; it’s inevitable. Determine from the get-go to regard cleanup as fun rather than as a chore.
The biggest difference between sourdough and other bread is that sourdough takes much longer to rise. If I start a batch this morning, I will anticipate baking it tomorrow night.
To make sourdough starter: half fill a small jar with flour, and stir water in until it becomes a paste. Cover loosely and put in a warm place, like the kitchen window. After 2-3 days the wild yeasts already in the flour will have become active, and it will be bublly. Now it’s ready to use.
You can keep it in the cupboard, loosely covered, indefinitely and it won’t go bad. Every day, discard 1 tbsp. of what you’ve got — our use that much to start a batch of bread — and stir in as much new flour to replace it. Thus you’ll keep the sourdough starter fresh and active.
How much water to use is up to you. The thicker the starter is, the less sour your bread will be; the thinner, the more sour.
(1) All activities associated with breadmaking provide an ideal occasion for presence or mindfulness meditation: one focuses one’s attention wholly on the activity at hand, giving oneself completely to the experience.
(2) It’s a good time to maintain an attitude of gratitude. Give thanks to God for providing the materials. Thank God for, and pray for, the farmers who produced it. Thank yeast (or “Yeast”) and wheat (“Wheat”), who have been staunch friends to our species for thousands of years. Pray that your taxes, tithes and activities may so create shalom as to make bread more accessible to the hungry. Praise God that you can so pray.
(3) Love for “the least of these.” I’ve always made it my business to actually love the yeast. These tiny fun guys (fungis) are actually right to stand tall and take pride in themselves. No less than the Blues Brothers, they are “on a mission from God,” to destroy complex starches and create simple sugars (cf. Jeremiah 1:10); to consume those sugars and produce ethanol (:)) and carbon dioxide.
(4) The Parable of the Yeast —
Matthew 13:33: He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and [hid in] three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
— illustrates what happens when one begins to establish presence. A little harmony and peace facilitates greater harmony and peace, and one’s motivations become increasingly coherent, until one’s whole being is transformed.
Why shouldn’t I dream about these things?